Yesterday morning I was the celebrant of the Eucharist for our principal Sunday service. I was keenly aware of N. and M., women I am proud to call my friends, strong, funny, capable women who have given me so much. One has accepted a cool new job at a university in the Southeast. The other one had been elected Bishop of a diocese in California the afternoon before. I am fiercely proud of each of them, even knowing as I do that especially for my friend the newly elected Bishop, life will become almost unrecognizable, at least for a time. But I've already said goodbye to at least 4 other really good friends who moved away in the last year and a couple other will be leaving soon too. When I broke the host at the end of the Eucharistic prayer, it felt like my heart was breaking with it.
South Florida is a tough, sometimes mean, borderland. It wears people out. The hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 were brutal. Ft. Lauderdale took a direct hit from Wilma. The evening after the winds came through, 95 percent of the county had no power, water or phone. We live fairly close to I-95 and you can see an overpass from our front door. As we sat in the darkness, strange blue and red light kept coming through the two windows of our front entrance and I finally realized it was cops patrolling the Interstate. I felt so vulnerable and exposed. It's hard to forget that kind of experience and I am left unsettled as I watch my friends decide to pack it up and leave. It is ironic that the place where I have livedthe longest in this country is a place where few people come to stay. S and I have ended up being the repository of a big chunk of the history of our parish: the congregation has turned over almost completely twice in the 10 years we've been here.
I can look at lots of parts of my life and see what look like bits of evidence that S and I are being faithful to what we both understand as our vocations by staying here. I could not wait to leave the community we came from that was all about deep roots, tradition and the way things have always been. I loved the sense of bubbling, chaotic energy and things being made new that I found in this crazy place. It's just that I am now almost 50 and I get to thinking some days, about getting old and wanting to have the people I love close by; I begin to value some kind of permance and stability to hold me up.
And in the final analysis, my sadness is very simple. I have loved these folks; their love has made my life better. I will miss them more than words can say...